Ladbroke Grove treasure trove

Volume 4 Issue 002: Mr Falconer’s Crazy Clothes Connection is a vintage-lovers’ dream. After passing away earlier this year, we pay homage to a true style homme.

Arti­cle taken from The Face Volume 4 Issue 002. Order your copy here.

Crazy Clothes Connection is the secret stop on any London stylist or designer’s subterranean vintage crawl. For the unfamiliar: walk down Ladbroke Grove and turn down Lancaster Road to number 134 and you’ll find a treasure trove packed to the rafters with rare and unusual pieces. Run by Mr Falconer (known only as Falconer” until he passed away aged 89 last year), the shop is a time capsule of pieces from the 1920s to the 80s. Punk, glam rock, mod and club kid style co-exist harmoniously under one roof.

It’s a collection consisting of thousands of pieces. As Falconer’s widow Tina explains: There were 4,000 ties alone!” Tina has a hard shell and a soft interior. Sat puffing away on the first of many Dunhills in the kitchen of her basement flat in Notting Hill, she tells their story, showing photographs of Falconer dressed in fur coats and three-piece suits, a single gold Krugerrand coin around his neck.

Tina met Falconer shortly after the seamstress’ son moved to London from Jamaica in the 1950s. It was hard times for black people back then,” Tina explains. He did a stint working in St Charles’ Hospital before serving a three-year sentence in prison. Three years for weed! First offence. Three years!” she says, still shocked at the excessive sentencing. But Falconer made the most of his time inside, learning how to sew and further developing his interest in clothes.

After he came out of the clink in the late 1960s, he met Tina. As soon as she laid eyes on him walking down Portobello Road, she knew he was the one. The stars aligned. I went out with Falconer on New Year’s Eve and that was it – I never went home. Not even to get my toothbrush.”

The couple jumped between hostels and their car (with their cat named Tiddles in tow) before eventually moving into the basement flat on Powis Square where Tina still lives today. It’s the exact location in which Mick Jagger took a bubble bath in Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell’s cult classic Performance (1970). Jagger junkies still come a‑knocking on Tina’s door today.

In the early 1970s, Tina and Falconer would visit the West End in the early hours, searching for scraps of leather before the dustbin carts came around. Falconer used them to craft patchwork coats that he’d later flog to the ladies of the night”. Next came the markets. One Saturday, a man sold Falconer two black bags that proved to be a gold mine – each was filled with fur coats that prompted him to learn everything he could about garment construction.

By the 1980s Falconer had a couple of shops in Peckham, but when he found out he had prostate cancer, Tina insisted he work closer to home. She reached out to the housing trust and together they found him a store on Lancaster Road. Crazy Clothes Connection opened its doors in 1994. The shop was located a few steps away from chef Alistair Little’s star restaurant 192, a 90s institution where George Michael, Kylie Minogue and Uma Thurman were known to dine. Falconer made sure his shop window was always dressed to entice passers-by – and he made sure it always featured a gown. He loved gowns, that’s why we have so bloody many,” Tina exclaims. He thought everyone should go to Oxford or Cambridge and that everyone should wear a gown.”

Falconer had a clever way of getting his hands on them. He’d come to me on the market and say: You got any money, T?’ I was paying all the bills at the time! I’m there thinking: I’ve got money for the rent, gas, electric, my cigarettes, food.’ And he’s there saying: T, I’ve seen this dress. God, if you saw this dress! T, I can see you in it. It’s £20, but I could sell it for £100.’ He’d circle me, mumbling: Man, if I had £20, what I’d do with that £20!’ I’d crack. Once he had the dress, nothing else mattered.”

Soon the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell (“she called him grandad”) were popping in to try on prom dresses and platform shoes, while Robbie Williams came in searching for crocodile boots and a morning suit. Others arrived to be dressed for premieres or parties and stylists arrived en masse to source looks for shoots.

It was in 2012 that footwear consultant Chau Har Lee first stepped into Crazy Clothes Connection, drawn in by Falconer’s collection of museum-worthy platform boots. He hand-selected everything. It’s mind-blowing the amount he accumulated over the years, but every piece had a reason and an importance,” says Har Lee. Soon she let her close pals – designer Martine Rose and stylist Tamara Rothstein – in on the secret, too.

The trio forged a close bond with Falconer and Tina and have been part of the Crazy Clothes Connection family ever since. Today, with the help of her girls, Tina is ready to hand Falconer’s crazy collection over to a new generation. There are over 4,000 ties up for grabs. Just don’t even think about getting Tina started on the gowns.

Hair Soichi Inagaki at Art Partner, Makeup Daniel Sallstrom at M+A using Pat McGrath Labs, Set designer Amy Stickland at Webber, Production LG Studio, Production team Carly Nijini, Casting director Lisa Dymph Megens at Industry Art, Models Grace Guane at Next, Caroline Reuter at Premier, Adam and Betty. Photography assistants Ed Aked and Barney Curren, Styling assistance Charlie Murray, Set design assistance Harry Stayt, Post production ink. With special thanks to Emily Grant, Crazy Clothes Connection and Alva East Studios.

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